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Baltimore Sun confuses ID and creationism

John G. West

On 12/19/04, The Baltimore Sun published a ridiculously misinformed article that attempted to conflate intelligent design (ID) with biblical creationism. In “Evolution or Design,” reporters Larry Carson and Larry Williams used the Institute for Creation Research rather than Discovery Institute as a spokesman for intelligent design theory. They also implied that ID teaches that “God created the Earth and its creatures less than 10,000 years ago.”

In reality, the Institute for Creation Research is a supporter of biblical creationism, and it has criticized design theory because it is not biblically-based. It is not a spokesman for intelligent design. Moreover, most of the scientists and scholars who support and write about intelligent design theory accept the standard scientific dating of the earth. Indeed, many design theorists have highlighted the importance of the Big Bang to the design argument, as well as discussing the importance of the “Cambrian Explosion” of life more than 500 million years ago.

What makes The Sun’s misreporting on this issue so bizarre is that Mr. Carson in fact called Discovery Institute to get our comments, and I talked with him at length about what design theory is and is not. I even sent him a statement about why we don’t support the intelligent design policy adopted by the Dover School District, as well as a fact sheet about intelligent design that refuted some of the very misconceptions contained in his article (such as the idea that design teaches a young earth). Why, then, did the Sun get its description of ID so wrong?

In a follow-up phone conversation, Mr. Carson insisted that he had not intentionally misreported the story. He told me that he simply had not understood the difference between ID and creationism. Well, why not? I talked to him about the differences, and the fact sheet I sent him specifically addressed the misconceptions he spread in his article. Did he even read the fact sheet? When I pressed him on this point, he sheepishly admitted that “I didn’t look at it carefully” and “I didn’t read all of it.” Since the fact sheet was only a couple of pages in length, why didn’t he read all of it? Mr. Carson finally said he was sorry if he misrepresented our position. Nice of him to apologize, but readers of the Sun deserve more accurate information.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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